Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Hunting Mister Heartbreak

I stared at the girl. She had a voice out of Gone with the Wind. I set to wondering stupidly if it was her own voice or if she was putting it on.

"Sir? Do you want a drink?"

"Sorry. A vodka martini, very dry, straight up with a twist. Please."

This was not to do with any great desire for a vodka martini (I would actually have preferred Scotch); it was a small salute to a dead man. For I had once lunched with John D. MacDonald, the creator of Travis McGee -- the Trav whom I had spent some time earlier in the day trying to be. MacDonald himself had been surprisingly gentle and homely, with clumsy hands, not at all like his intrepid, know-it-all hero. There had been just one flash of McGee in MacDonald, when we were ordering our drinks before the meal. Without looking up from the menu, he's growled, "Vodka martini, very dry, straight up with a twist." It was a fine line. I couldn't match MacDonald's delivery of it, but it was nice to say, and to think of him, and Travis McGee, in this timbered bar somewhere in northern Virginia.

Sipping at John D's martini, I followed I-81 through pages of the Rand McNally atlas, trying to work out exactly where I was.
-- from Hunting Mister Heartbreak (1990) by Jonathan Raban (one of the most entertaining travel books ever written.)

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